Tamil Nadu girl’s NASA dream a step closer to reality

Tell us about your chance to visit NASA.

At school one day, I saw a newspaper on the floor. It featured the photograph of a girl and a rocket. Interested, I read the paper. It was about a girl who had gone to NASA after writing an examination for a company offering online tutoring services. Seeing that, I too wanted to go to NASA. When I asked my teacher if I could attend it she said yes. Those who were playing with me said it would be too big an achievement for me to think about. But from a very young age, I have always proven such people wrong. When someone says I can't do something. I always attempt to finish it. So I challenged my friends. I went home, used my uncle's phone to understand what the examination was about, and gathered all related information. Then I wrote it. It was the first online examination I ever wrote: it was a very new experience. I won the second rank in India, and a chance to visit NASA.

Did the win kindle your interest in Science, Maths, and Social Sciences?

If I remember correctly, these interests and the dream to visit NASA began when I was in primary school. The reason for that would be my teachers. At a time when students didn't have much access to mobile phones and other gadgets, my teachers gave me information they found on newspapers, television, etc. That's what kindles the interest in me. Not just these, I attend many competitions at school, including sports such as carrom, chess, and kabaddi.

Though you won the competition you were unable to visit NASA due to the COVID-19 outbreak. What happened then?

Once the examination results were out, I was told that I would have to provide the flight cost myself. I'm the breadwinner of my family, and do not have the money for that. But then, a few social workers offered to help by starting a fund. And so that need was met. After that a non-government organisation offered to pay for it. Since the flight cost was already paid, they offered to build a house for me since I live in a hut. I told them that I didn't want a house, and if they really wanted to help, they could build a public bathroom for my village since most houses didn't have one. So now, there are 126 bathrooms / toilets in our town.

You mentioned you're the breadwinner of your family. What work do you do?

I live with my mother and brother. My village Adhanakottai is famous for cashew nuts. I work at a factory that manufactures cashew products. In summer, I harvest cashew fruit.

What are your interests?

I read books, draw, play, and conduct tuition classes for students up to Class X.

What would you like to say to children who have big dreams but don't have the support to achieve them?

If you believe you can achieve your dream, you can do it. If there is a will, there is a way. If we can't do it, nobody can. To achieve our dreams, background, money, and status do not matter.

What course are you going to study after school?

I have just completed the academic year for Class XII. I have not yet thought about the course I am going to study.

How do you feel about supporting your family?

When someone imagines their work to be impossible, it turns impossible. When I want something, I put in my best effort. If I get it, great. If I don't, I am not bothered much.

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Naila Moloo , 15-year-old innovator from Canada is working on creating flexible solar cells and researching on coming up with better bioplastic

What do you like about nanotechnology?

All kinds of interests start with learning and research. I started with research myself. I started researching on the broad topic of our environment. I discovered that I was specifically passionate about sustainable energy resources, and through more and more exposure. I discovered nanotechnology. Nanomaterials are going to have an impact on every single field of work in the future, and I knew I wanted to learn about them on a more technical level. So I combined my interests in nanotechnology and sustainable energy. I think it's crucial to become strong in multiple fields of technology so you can intersect them to create game-changing ideas.

What is your mission? What action have you taken to get closer to it?

My mission is to end the global usage of fossil fuels. The amount of fossil fuels used by the world is huge, and we don't have much time left before we exhaust those fuels. Besides researching about this and educating myself, I want to build projects and do something about this problem.

Tell us about your journey as an author.

I have always loved writing. I love creating new things and putting my thoughts on paper, and I especially love fantasy. I started off by writing short stories. Those developed into chapter books of about a 100 pages, and finally, I ended up with novels. I love reading, and I love the impact that certain books have on me, and I wanted to have that kind of impact on my readers as well. I wrote my first Inovel when I was in Class III, and then in Class VI. I tried to get published another novel I had written, but got rejected by publishing houses and agents. I went back to the drawing board, wrote another novel in Class VII, and this one ended up getting published. It's called "Chronicles of Illusions: The Blue Wild", and it was released a few months ago.

You have won many awards. Which one is your favourite?

First of all, I don't think awards should define our success or happiness. I have won a few awards, but they don't define me. I think my favourite award would be my being given the second place for the national science fair because I got to help others. I worked on an intervention to decrease cellular screen time in middle school girls for about two years. I started off with my school science fair in Class VII which I won, and then I went to Regionals, where I didn't get through. In the next year, I got to Regionals once again, and got through to Nationals, where I got silver. It was something I was very passionate about. My result was decreasing cellular screen time in girls by two hours per day per person.

Who is your source of inspiration?

I have a few mentors who are my constant sources of inspiration. I am part of a programme called The Knowledge Society, where there are different directors for different cities. My director is lan Lockhart and he is absolutely incredible. He has helped me so much. I also look up to my dad. He is a huge role model for me and has given me many great opportunities that have shaped who I am today. And I have to mention my sister. She's only a few years older than me, but she's my best friend.

What are your future plans? Are there any projects you are currently working on?

I'm going to be building a prototype of the new solar panel I have been working on in a lab. This is exciting! I'm doing research on making better bioplastic. I'm also working on a sequel to my novel, and a children's book series on developing technology fields such as Al and nanotech. Emerging tech is going to play a huge role in the future, and children need to know about them earlier on. Speaking of the future and the next generation, I am going to be starting a podcast with my sister, for young people.

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Meet Namya Joshi, the 13-YO Whiz Kid Who Left Satya Nadella Impressed!

How did you get into game-based learning?

Our brain captures things better when we play games, when we have fun. That's where the idea of using games for education comes in. We create 3D models in Minecraft a videogame series, and make leaderboards. Students learn better because visual learning helps them understand things better. During an unplanned session with my teacher in Class V, I learned about Minecraft, and when I went home, I saw its PC edition on my laptop. I remembered that my teacher had talked about it, and so I started playing. Later, my parents got me the educational edition, where I started building my lessons. Being able to see the problems faced by my peers in understanding concepts, and being able to change the educational routine of memorising to visual learning, I stumbled upon the idea of gamification.

You're just 14, but you have trained hundreds of teachers from other regions and countries as well in educational gamification using Minecraft and STEM. Tell us about that.

It has been a learning experience, because to teach others. I have to learn - how to be kind, understand how they leam, and teach according to their pace. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and I have to adapt to their speed. I also became more confident. I see the difference between the very first session I conducted, and the sessions I conduct now. I used to be very formal in those days, but now I am a bit more comfortable.

Girls are often questioned for taking up gaming. What are your views on that?

Initially, lots of people asked me why I played video games, being a girl. I proved them wrong by building these lessons and displaying them. When I saw that not many girls are into these fields, I started my own club, "Girls in STEM", wherein I taught them how to use certain tools not only to learn but also to create awareness that everyone can get into these fields. Games have nothing to do with gender. Everyone can game.

Have you faced any challenges so far?

I haven't faced many challenges except for the view that girls can't game. But I just ignored them. I wasn't silent. When I had to speak out my mind, I did, but calmly. I have never been rude, though. You must never give up hope and always strive for more. Your focus must be on reality.

You are a recipient of the Bal Shakti Puraskar 2018.

On January 25, 2018, I was given the award by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That day had a surreal feel to it. It was amazing to hear my name being announced and meeting him. I got it in the Innovation Category for creating lessons in Minecraft and making classrooms more interactive. I was also recognised for teaching several teachers in game-based leaming.

Many parents feel games distract children from studies. What are your thoughts?

Playing is not necessarily bad, but prolonged playing is not good. I set a proper schedule, where I dedicate ample time for studies, and time for playing as well. Priorities need to be set. Homework, extra-curricular activities, chores given by your parents come first. Then you won't be stopped from playing. Taking breaks is also important.

You run a video channel called Technocrat. Tell us about that.

I started my channel in 2019. I started posting tutorials on how to use tech tools. In my podcast "Each one Teach Ten: A Beautiful World of STEM", I invite people all over the world who use STEM tools to engage students in the classroom.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to set up an educational gamification start-up.

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Youngest writer of State felicitated by Assam Book Records at DHSK College

You are the Youngest Author of Assam.

My book "How We Became Magnificent was published in December 2018; I was 10 years old then. It was for that book I was given the Youngest Author of Assam award by Assam Book of Records.

Tell us about your poem "Silhouette of Reality".

 I watch the news: saw lots of people suffering during the coronavirus pandemic then there's the issue of pollution... all these things were on my mind. I compiled my thoughts into a poem, and titled it "Silhouette of Reality. It highlights the darkness we face in life. It was published in a magazine and on online poetry platforms for young poets.

What does your company Clippers do? After

I received the award, I was invited to speak at a local high school on Children's Day. When I had a question-and-answer session with the students there, I got to know that many students were curious about this field. So I came up with a social media page called Literature on Screen, where viewers could read my work. When the pandemic hit, and classes went online, I created Clippers, a media channel. My first interview for the channel was with author Nandini Nayar, who narrated her journey in the field. Next was my first video interview. It was with a Nigerian educator, who was helping poor people across the world. She has donated mobile phones to many children and created free Mathematics videos for them. I have also interviewed a New York Times bestselling author. And then, I got the idea of creating a talk show.

What is your talk show about?

I realised that many children are achievers. So I made my talk show primarily for such children. For instance, one episode was with Namya Joshi, awardee of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, 2021.

Who is your inspiration?

Authors Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L Stine, and Enid Blyton. My father and grandfather are both authors, and I am inspired by them. I am also inspired by the young people I interview on my talk show.

What are your hobbies?

I started painting when I was three years old. I also love singing and reciting poems. I love typing too.

How do you manage your time?

Before classes went online, I had to write during the weekends. Whenever I got an idea for a story, I noted it down. But during the lockdown, I got a lot of spare time, so I was able to spend more time on writing.

What are your plans for the future?

I am close to publishing my second book "The Enormity of Time". There are more books to be published. I also have to work on the episodes of my talk show.

What do you want to tell young people like you?

If you all wish to do something, believe that you can do it. If there is a will, there is a way. If you have the motive to change something, you can do it.

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Meet 15-year-old Manasi Patil whose detective story can give Nancy Drew a run for her money

You’ve written two books. Tell us about that journey

I used to come up with small, fantasy tales when I was about two or three years old. The actual journey of writing a book started in 2020, at the beginning of the lockdown. I had a sudden urge to start writing, and in a few weeks, my first book “The Cousin’s Crime” was ready. Simultaneously, I started writing my second book, a non-fiction, “Why Ignore them?” It came out last June.

Tell us about your books

“The Cousin’s Crime” is a mystery with 17-year-old Krisha Batra as the protagonist. She is witty, fierce, determined, yet playful. There is a sidekick too, Aarav Batra, her brother. I drew his character from my own life, and I think most people will be able to relate to them. The story starts with the Summer Detective Contest, which Kisha wins and becomes an official detective. The story begins when Kisha witnesses a crime.

My second book is about the environmental issues faced by the world. I have listed nine issues being ignored, and need action. I have also suggested a few methods to solve these issues. While with the first book I hope to empower girls more, in the second, I want to try and tackle environmental problems.

You’re a content writer and an editor too.

I contribute content to an organization that puts mental health above everything else; it attempts to break the shackles of shame. My aim is to make the topic of mental health more inclusive. I believe that if mental health is fine, we can work more efficiently.

For a scientific magazine of the same organization, I write on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The research had to be deep for that. As months progressed, I got promoted. Recently, I took up responsibility for podcasts too.

Who is your inspiration?

I have different inspiration for different aspects of my life. My biggest inspiration includes APJ Abdul Kalam. Even when he was the President of India, he was so down-to-earth, so humble. Another person is Sudha Murthy. She is an author, and the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation. She is humble as well. Also, multi-faceted Ellen Degeneres, who is amazing; she is aware of problems in her environment. She has started a variety of movements, including one for saving pandas.

What challenges did you face in your journey? How did you overcome them?

Time would have been a challenge, but, due to the lockdown, that wasn’t a challenge. The greatest challenge was staying consistent. Writing is a very long process; it can’t end in two or three days. So giving it a 100% in the beginning and getting lower won’t work. I’d like to quote singer Shawn Mendes, “You can’t get too comfortable and relax, because your world can flip overnight.” You have to remain consistent. And I can’t emphasise enough on reading. It doesn’t have to be a book; just about anything is fine.

What are your hobbies?

It may sound like a cliche, but I like to study Science and Mathematics. Especially about space. I can keep going on and on about space. Apart from that, I like to play the guitar. These are my most-favourite hobbies, which I can do every day. Sometimes I like to draw, but not always. Reading is my most favourite.

What are your future plans?

I don’t want to plan on anything. But I do love space and science, so I want to do something in that field. Above all, I want to become a good woman; be empathetic. All the women who inspire me are humble and simple. I want to be like that.

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